Friday, April 29, 2011

The Green Conundrum


Last Friday we celebrated the 41st Earth Day, this year’s theme being A Billion Acts of Green. My query this morning: Why am I beginning to read articles that America’s love affair with “green” products has declined?

Read on:

An online Harris Poll (2,352 U.S. adults ages 18 and over) revealed that in 2010, 36% of the respondents were concerned about the planet they were leaving behind for future generations compared to 43% in 2009. When asked whether environmental issues were important when voting for political candidates, 28% said it was important down from 36% in 2009. Detailed below are other interesting results as it relates to the decline of “green” behavior in 2010 compared to 2009:

  • Purchasing locally grown produce (33% vs. 39%).
  • Purchasing organic products (15% vs. 17%) Note: On the other hand, while researching this post, I learned the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) reported sales of organic products reached $28.6 billion, an increase of approximately 8 percent versus 2009. Organic fruits and vegetables which represent 39.7 percent ($10.6 billion) of total organic sales exhibited the greatest growth – plus 11.8 percent. Makes me question whether those people who already buy organics are now buying more.
  • Making an effort to use less water (57% vs. 60%).
  • Purchased a hybrid or more fuel efficient car (8% vs. 13%).
  • Purchased Energy Star appliances (30% vs. 36%).

Has the recession impacted “green” consumerism as Americans look to cut spending? One category that has exhibited a major decline has been household products like cleaning supplies, especially those marketed by the major companies like Clorox and S.C. Johnson compared to niche players Method and Seventh Generation. Mintel a research firm reported that the number of household cleaners with “green” claims declined from 144 in 2009 to 105 in 2010; “green” dishwashing liquids from 85 to 58. One particular environment-friendly line of cleaning products that has exemplified the decline in “green” products was Clorox’s Sierra Club endorsed Green Works – sales peaked in 2008 at $100 million and has now leveled off to $60 million.

Is it too premature to jump to any conclusions? The Green Conundrum! The same Harris Poll indicated that 20% of those surveyed consider themselves conservationist (compared to 17% in 2009), 18% “green” (compared to 13% in 2009) and 16% environmentalist (compared to 13% in 2009). So have Americans become unpredictable when it comes to buying “green” products?

Stay tuned as my next post addresses how Fido is going green.


  1. Interesting post Jim. I think it’s definitely partly related to the economy. I’m a Method fan myself a bit but I question how green some products from the big companies like Clorox really are. “Green” products are normally more expensive and in today’s economy, it’s not a priority for everyone. I think it’s also related to a lack of confidence in the theory of global warming. There are a lot of people out there saying it’s all a hoax. Maybe people don’t know what to believe so why should they go green?

  2. Jim, I do beleive the economy has impacted the "Green" market. When you are unemployed, you are probably more concerned about your family's survival than the planets. As for the increase in organics, it seems to be that there are more organic choices than ever before so devoted buyers have more to buy. -KMG

  3. Thank you both for weighing in. It is amazing how the economy impacts our brand or lack of brand loyalty. However, I think it varies by category and thought people that think green would still buy green and just save in other areas like orange juice, dairy products (on sale), condiments, etc.

  4. The issue is, like for everything else, the WIIFM factor. Sure, people understand theoretically that "green" is good but they don't understand the immediate impact to their daily lives if they were to forego being "green" in their purchase and consumption decisions.